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In a high percentage of PM cases, the cause of death can be determined from gross examination alone

without needing laboratory tests

Diagnosing the cause of death of one animal,

can provide the information to protect the health

and performance of the rest of the flock/herd

Below are some summaries of recent findings from post-mortem examinations collected

through the XLVets scheme.

Example cases

An adult lactating dairy cow was found

dead with no previous history of ill health.

Post-mortem examination revealed multiple

lesions on the heart valves and chronic

scar tissue, and adhesions between

reticulum and lower left abdominal wall.

There was a small abscess in the wall of

the reticulum which contained a 5cm

length of sharp wire. A magnet in the

reticulum was covered in wire and metal


Tyre wire disease was listed as the fourth

most common diagnosis at post-mortem of

adult dairy cows in a retrospective study

carried out by SAC Consulting. On this

farm, the examining vet commented that

the magnet seemed ‘full’ with metal and

that administering another magnet to older

animals should be considered.

Case 1:

Case 2:

A three-year-old dairy cow in late


was presented for examination

with generalised weakness and muscle

tremors. The cow did not respond to

treatment with magnesium sulphate and

died soon after.

Post-mortem examination revealed a

uterine tear and the calf free in the

abdomen. This is likely to have

happened from a fall or trauma to

the abdomen.

Case 3:

A carcase of an eight-week-old mule


was found to have a faecal worm

egg count of Nematodirus of 1,650

eggs per gram. Fifteen lambs in a group

of 80 were scouring. They had not

received any anthelmintic treatment this


There were a number of cases of

Nematodirus diagnosed at post-mortem,

during May and June. In this case the

farmer was advised to worm the group

with a benzimadazole product and

submit a faeces sample for analysis

10-14 days later to check the efficacy

of the anthelmintic.

A six-week-old male Texel cross lamb

was recumbent for 3 days before death

despite treatment with antibiotic.

On post-mortem examination, pericarditis

was found to be the cause of death –

this is swelling of the fluid-filled sac that

surrounds the heart. There had been a high

lamb mortality rate in the flock this year and

a number of post-mortem examinations had

been carried out. Pasteurellosis had been

the cause of death in the majority of cases.

Pericarditis in this case could be attributed

to pasteurellosis.

Although ewes had been vaccinated with a

multivalent clostridial vaccine 4-6 weeks

pre-lambing, the passive antibody transfer

would not have provided long-lasting

protection for the culprit bacterium in this

case. So following the results of the PMs,

it was recommended that next year, lambs

be vaccinated at 3 weeks of age.

Case 4:

Case 5:

A five-day-old castrated male lamb


found dead.

Lee-Anne explains: ‘It took me less than ten

minutes to discover it had a ruptured bladder,

and damaged kidneys. The cause was found

to be the castration ring, which when applied

had trapped part of the lamb’s urethra, and

it had been unable to pass urine. The farmer

had been preparing to administer antibiotic

treatments to all lambs thinking it was a

disease, but in fact, it was a practical

management error.


Can sometimes be the only way to

reach a correct diagnosis

Can lead to a more targeted

approach to treatment and prevention

Can save money in the long term

The fresher, the better!